Key: UN seat for Cook Islands unlikely

  • 04/08/2015
Prime Minister John Key (Simon Wong)
Prime Minister John Key (Simon Wong)

The Cook Islands feels it's grown up enough to have its own seat at the United Nations.

But New Zealand Prime Minister John Key doesn't think the UN will allow that to happen.

Mr Key is in the Cook Islands to celebrate the Pacific nation's 50 years of self-government in free association with New Zealand.

He met with his Cook Islands counterpart Henry Puna in Rarotonga on Monday (local time) and while the issue of UN membership wasn't discussed during the talks, it's something that is clearly on Mr Puna's mind.

"I think when you turn 50, that's mid-life," Mr Puna told a press conference.

"You are growing up and it's part of growing up, it's as simple as that."

But Mr Key says getting UN membership isn't straightforward, as the UN Security Council would have to agree to it.

"It's not as simple as a gift New Zealand can give, it's a gift the UN would have to give and it's not a gift I think frankly they're going to give."

UN members must be fully independent states and the Cook Islands' self-government in free association status isn't the same as that.

Mr Key later told reporters if the Cook Islands did end up with a seat at the UN table, it could put New Zealand in a tricky predicament.

"We'd be in a position where people who held New Zealand passports and New Zealand citizenship could technically vote against New Zealand," he said.

"If there was a motion we were voting for, they technically could vote against and that's a very confusing position to be in.

"It's not the same, but in principle would you allow the South Island to vote against the North Island at the UN? The answer is no."

Mr Puna said he would try to raise the issue with Mr Key formally when he visits New Zealand later this month, or at the Pacific Islands Forum in September.

NZN